Kobe Bryant is under contract with the Lakers for two more seasons and $48.5 million, a deal which he and the team were both widely criticized for agreeing to under the circumstances.
The thinking was that Bryant should have taken a far more substantial discount in the twilight of his career, in order for the team to have the cap space necessary to add enough talent around him so that L.A. could compete for a title in one of his final two years.
Instead, the Lakers repaid Bryant for his past contributions more than they did extend him for what his current market value would be. There is no scenario where L.A. would consider trading Bryant, and no scenario where he would want that to happen. But in the event something were to unexpectedly (and drastically) change between now and when Bryant chooses to retire, at least one GM believes that the Lakers wouldn’t have too many options.
Seven months after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon—and three weeks before he fractured his left kneecap—Bryant signed a $48.5 million, two-year deal. The contract, widely derided as the worst in the game, makes Bryant nearly impossible to move, even were the Lakers to try. Asked about Kobe’s value on the market, one GM answers definitively: “Zero. Look at that number. Who takes him?”
This is by design, of course. It ensures that Bryant accomplishes something very few pro athletes have: playing an entire career with one team. Bryant’s plan is to retire in two years, though he says he reserves the right to change his mind. Thus one of the game’s greatest players and one of its two fiercest competitors—Michael Jordan being the other—will likely exit the league laboring for an undermanned squad in a stacked conference.
This seems somewhat obvious, but you really can never say never.
There have been plenty of contracts far worse than Bryant’s that have been traded over the years (the Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas deal comes to mind), and when you consider that Bryant’s is a deal that expires after next season, which would be of value to a team trying to rebuild by clearing space on the roster, it’s certainly not impossible to envision.
Except, of course, for the fact that neither Bryant nor the Lakers will ever even consider it.